Week 36: Light at the End of the Tunnel

After the first tryout for my Seattle Majestics in October, I was encouraged that I was able to do more on the field than I had expected that I could. I went into the weekend for the 2nd tryout excited to see if I had progressed in the couple of weeks since then. I was surprised even further after this tryout.

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I spoke last entry about how I had a dilemma about what footwear to use. Before this tryout, I found my cleats that I wore the first part of the season last year and tried them on. They are Nike’s and wider and seemed to feel more comfortable than the shiny Underarmor cleats. Underarmor cleats tend to run more narrow which puts more pressure on your foot for balance. Having a wider cleat disperses that balance. I think when I am healthy it doesn’t matter much but coming off this injury that sense of balance is a huge psychological help.

I arrived at the field early like I usually do. I hate being late. I believe this stems from the fact that when I was a child my mother made us late to almost everything because she was running on Gemini time. As a Capricorn I vowed that when I was in charge of my schedule I would not be late. Because of this, I am 99 percent of the time early, especially if it really matters like work, football, and meetings.

The weather was wet and cold like normal at this time of year in the Northwest. I made it through warmups and felt I had slightly more power than the previous one. We divided up into groups to rotate through different drills. The first tryout I had completed about 30-40 percent of the drills. This time I did all of them except for 1 because it was timed. I was not at normal speed but I was able to complete them which helped my confidence.

We focused on defense this tryout more as the first tryout was spent mostly on offense. This was great for me because I have to get used to the footwork required to play defense and I have to shake off the rust of using my vision and reading what is happening. I was able to knock off some of that rust.

When we worked on 7-on-7 pass coverage, I surprised myself by how well I was able to drop into my zones footwork wise. This gave me more confidence. It seems that short term lateral movement and backwards movement is no problem now. I could definitely get faster but the actual speed was not as far off as one would think.

We later broke into team defense where I was able to come in to my middle linebacker position and lead the team in huddle and defensive calls. This was huge for me as I mentally know the calls but I needed to get my feet wet again to regain confidence in my vision and decision making. People don’t realize how much of a skill this is or how important it is playing linebacker. Your vision is everything. How you read is everything. The physical play follows your vision.

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It felt good to be on that field and in that position again. I needed it. I needed to feel, OK, I still have this. Not like I felt like over a decade of playing would disappear but mentally understanding the game and making the right call in the moment is skill that I was happy to still have.

During this tryout I was able to pretty much participate in everything. What I noticed is that I could run straight although I would need to work more on my breaking down and trusting my leg. I also noticed that short term lateral was great. I could break down at cones now without problem. I was able to do long distance lateral as well but I will also have to work on breaking down while doing this and regaining speed.

I was happy that a lot of people noticed my improvement from the 2 tryouts and I felt great! After being gone so long it kind of feels like returning home.

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My physical therapy has been increasing in intensity. My therapist is great because she pushes me in a good way. She understands I’m an athlete. She will point out where I’m weak so I can focus on improvement. I’m usually sweating after leaving our sessions.

I’ve been working on ladder work and I seem to be able to do this very well currently. My physical therapist has an extremely long ladder. It’s basically twice the length of mine which means I get in a lot of work while using it.

I have now tweaked my focus towards squats, lunges, and one legged get ups from chairs. I still need to get my left quad to close the gap on my right quad. It seems I am much better than before but need to close the gap on power and explosion now.

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Last session we tested my jumping ability. She laid out a tape on the ground. I first jumped on my right foot as far out as possible but it only counted if I stuck the landing. Then we tested my left quad. Then we tested the triple jump. This meant I would jump 3 times on my right foot as far as possible while landing it and then compare it with my left.

I still have a ways to go to close the gap. I felt like I actually had more power in my left leg than I was able to produce but I was tentative on the landing. Not really from a standpoint of fear but more so of I haven’t done this about a year. It’s weird but it’s like your body forgets what certain movements feel like and you have to mentally challenge it to remember. The only way to do that is to actually do the movement. You have to push past the hesitation and trust it at some point.

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I’m excited because even though I have gap to close, I know what to work on. You give me what to work on and I will practice until I master it. When I’m able to get to the point that I can close that gap, it will mean huge things about my recovery.

I went my next orthopedic appointment on Thursday. I was a bit nervous like always. Even though I feel like I’m doing well, because I only see him so often and I have worked so hard, it can feel a bit like going in for huge test in college that you have studied months for. You feel like you know the material but how will you actually perform?

My doctor tested my ligaments and everything felt great to him. My range of motion is very close to my right leg. He stated that now is the time to push and test it more because at some point you have to. He gave me the information for the brace people and said that I will probably need to wear it for 6-12 months. This doesn’t bother me at all if I can play.

He then said that at this point, there is no need to schedule another appointment unless something weird happens. It’s great feeling when you are doing so well you don’t need another appointment. I’m taking that to be a good sign.

After my appointment, I went to a massage therapy session. I of course talked to my massage therapist about football the entire hour. I felt great after. For those that don’t know, it’s helpful to massage out the scars too because scar tissue can build up and prevent motion. I re38206_imageally felt a difference when he worked on my hip and the quad that connects to it.

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I plan to hit this portion of the track hard. I have an appointment to meet with the brace people on Tuesday and I should get my brace after Thanksgiving. I will then have about a month and half to train with it. I think it will really help me feel more secure mentally.

My plan is that since my health insurance is amazing and offers me so mdownloadany appointments, I’m going to take advantage. I’m going to go to physical therapy definitely through January and if they will allow, probably further to prepare for regular season. It helps to have someone guide you and challenge you. I am also going to throw in massage therapy appointments to work out soreness.

This journey has been forever. It feels like several years and not several months. I have many people that have been there to help me along the way. It has showed me the strength of myself, the kindness of others, and re-instilled in me a hunger. I have never been this hungry my entire career. The other time I had a horrible year with life, I had an excellent year on the field. I hope to surpass that.

Now I must try to figure out what to do with the 20 pound turkey my work gave me for Thanksgiving and try not to eat too much pie next week. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

This video has been playing in my car when I have been driving to the gym on repeat.

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